My neighbor, Dr. Joab, telephoned me several months ago to ask me to drop in for tea and, incidentally, to learn about an experiment he intended to conduct, the purpose of which was to determine for once and all the validity of the theory of evolution.
Over oolong, he advised me that he had developed a method for speeding up the process by which, some claim, man has evolved from the ape. When I expressed mild doubt, he took me into his laboratory. There he showed me a machine that, had he not told me it was an evolution accelerator, I would have guessed to be an outsize pressure cooker.
I asked how it worked.
Joab is not one to burden the layman with scientific jargon. "Set the dial and flip the switch," he responded.
Taking me to the far side of the laboratory, he next showed me a young ape. It appeared to be an intelligent animal. At the moment it was attempting to pick the lock on its cage.
"In a period of less than a month," Dr. Joab told me, "I will subject this specimen to billions of years of evolutional development. When the job is done, he will be either a man—a bona fide human being—or he will remain an ape."
I pointed out that, according to statistics, there is already an excess of human beings and suggested that if he really wanted to create something worthwhile he try for an oak tree that was resistant to inch worms. But the good doctor had his heart set.
A few days later, I was summoned to Dr. Joab's laboratory again. I must admit that I was impressed by what he had so far achieved—possibly because I had expected nothing. The ape had grown consider ably, attaining the height of the average teenager, and was now standing upright.
I asked my neighbor if he felt it wise to continue, reminding him of the experience Dr. Frankenstein had with his monster. Dr. Joab was not in the least deterred.
Another week or so passed. This time I dropped by the lab of my own volition. I was amazed. The ape had lost most of his hair, becoming smooth-skinned. His facial structure had also altered considerably, taking on unmistakably human characteristics. Dr. Joab no longer had him confined to the cage. He had fitted him out in a sort of jump suit and was allowing him the freedom of the premises. Joab advised me that he planned now to teach the ape and/or man to perform simple tasks, such as taking out the garbage, loading the dishwasher, cleaning the lavatory bowls, and so forth.
When the third week had gone by, curiosity took me to the laboratory once more. I was astounded... The ape seemed no longer to exist. What had once been a primitive jungle animal was now a handsome young man. He was dressed in slacks, a colorful sports shirt and loafers.
"Perfection!" I said to Dr. Joab.
"Not quite," he replied. "He still puts the knives and forks in upside down in the dishwasher."
The doctor informed me that he was about to begin instructing his creation in the English language, dining out and social dancing. After that, Joab felt, he would be able to go out into the world and make his own way. I congratulated him, then departed. Since the experiment had proved out, my interest in it waned.
Some six months or so later, however, I was drawn into the affair once again. Dr. Joab telephoned me, excited, and asked me to join him at tea and witness the topping-off of his scientific project.
"Tonight," he told me, when I reached his quarters, "he's bringing home his intended bride. It's the final and conclusive proof. A woman could never be fooled. If he were still an ape, she would know."
"Have you met the lady?" I asked.
"Oh, no," the doctor replied. "He's completely independent—like a son grown to maturity. He went out into the world alone and dined and danced and wooed and won. Tonight he's bringing her home to meet me/Tomorrow we'll arrange for the ceremony."
"The children should be interesting," I commented.
Shortly thereafter, Joab's experiment appeared. He had indeed matured. He had the confident, casual manner of a young man of the world.
"Pop, she's outside," he said to Joab. "Shall I bring her in?"
"Do! Please do!" Joab responded, glowing.
The young man stepped from the room, then, a moment later, returned. He was carrying in his arms the loveliest stock of bananas it has ever been my pleasure to meet.
Let there be no confusion, though, about the tales which follow. They are exactly what you have come to expect from these collections—the best in horror and suspense.